Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза, pronounced [ˈmarʂəl sɐˈvʲetskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union.

Marshal of the Soviet Union
Маршал Советского Союза
Rank insignia of маршал Советского Союза.svg
Uniform shoulder strap (1955–1990)
Marshal-Star big1.jpg
Country Soviet Union
Service branch Soviet Army
RankGeneral officer
NATO rank codeOF-10
Formation22 September 1935
AbolishedDecember 1991
Next higher rankGeneralissimus of the Soviet Union
Next lower rankChief marshal of the branch
Equivalent ranksAdmiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union
Rank insignias of Marshal of the Soviet Union
Gorget patch
1935–40
Gorget patch
1940–43
Sleeve chevron
1940–43
Shoulder board
1943–55

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held this rank. The equivalent naval rank was until 1955 admiral of the fleet and from 1955 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union. Both ranks were comparable to NATO rank codes OF-10.

While the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union, which would have been senior to Marshal of the Soviet Union, was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved.

History of the rankEdit

 
The first five marshals of the Soviet Union from left to right: Tukhachevsky, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Blyukher, and Yegorov. Only Budyonny and Voroshilov would survive the Great Purge.

The military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was established by a decree of the Soviet Cabinet, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), on 22 September 1935. On 20 November, the rank was conferred on five people: People's Commissar of Defence and veteran Bolshevik Kliment Voroshilov, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army Alexander Yegorov, and three senior commanders, Vasily Blyukher, Semyon Budyonny, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Of these, Blyukher, Tukhachevsky, and Yegorov were executed during Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–38. On 7 May 1940, three new Marshals were appointed: the new People's Commissar of Defence, Semyon Timoshenko, Boris Shaposhnikov, and Grigory Kulik.

During World War II, Kulik was demoted for incompetence, and the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was given to a number of military commanders who earned it on merit. These included Georgy Zhukov, Ivan Konev and Konstantin Rokossovsky to name a few. In 1943, Stalin himself was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union, and in 1945, he was joined by his intelligence and police chief Lavrenti Beria. These non-military Marshals were joined in 1947 by politician Nikolai Bulganin.

Two Marshals were executed in postwar purges: Kulik in 1950 and Beria in 1953, following Stalin's death. Thereafter the rank was awarded only to professional soldiers, with the exception of Leonid Brezhnev, who made himself a Marshal in 1976, and Dmitry Ustinov, who was prominent in the arms industry and was appointed Defence Minister in July 1976. The last Marshal of the Soviet Union was Dmitry Yazov, appointed in 1990, who was imprisoned after the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Marshal Sergei Akhromeev committed suicide in 1991 during the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Marshals fell into three generational groups.

  • Those who had gained their reputations during the Russian Civil War. These included both those who were purged in 1937–38 (Blyukher, Tukhachevsky, and Yegorov), and those who held high commands in the early years of World War II (Budyonny, Kulik, Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko and Voroshilov). All of the latter except Shaposhnikov and Timoshenko proved out-of-step with modern warfare and were removed from commanding positions.
  • Those who made their reputations in World War II and assumed high commands in the latter part of the war. These included Zhukov, Vasilievsky, Konev, Rokossovsky, Malinovsky, Tolbukhin, Govorov, Meretskov and Sokolovsky.
  • Those who assumed high command in the Cold War era. All of these were officers in World War II, but their higher commands were held in the Warsaw Pact or as Soviet Defence Ministers. These included Grechko, Yakubovsky, Kulikov, Ogarkov, Akhromeev, and Yazov.

All Marshals in the third category had been officers in World War II, except Ustinov, who had been People's Commissar for Armaments. Even Yazov, who was 20 when the war ended, had been a platoon commander. Brezhnev was not a professional soldier, but was still commissioned as a political commissar in the war.

Of the 35 Marshals who were career soldiers, the majority were of Russian origin. Timoshenko (Tymoshenko), Kulik (Kulyk), Grechko (Hrechko), Yeremenko (Yeryomenko), Moskalenko, Batitsky (Batytsʹkyy) and Koshevoy (Koshovyy) were of Ukrainian origin, while Sokolovsky (Sakaloŭski) and Yakubovsky (Jakuboŭski) had Belarusian origins. Rokossovsky (Rokossowski) was born in Congress Poland to a Polish family, while Malinovsky (Malinowsky) was born in Odessa (now in Ukraine) to a Polish father. Bagramyan (Baghramyan) was the sole marshal of Armenian origin.

The rank was abolished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It was succeeded in the new Russia by the rank of Marshal of the Russian Federation, which has been held by only one person, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, who was Russian Defence Minister from 1997 to 2001.

After the death of Marshal Yazov in 2020 there were no living Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Sequence of ranks
lower rank:
Army General
(Генерал армии)
 
Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Маршал Советского Союза)
Higher rank:
Generalissimus of the Soviet Union
(highest)
Chief marshal of the branch
(Главный ма́ршал ро́да во́йск)

List of Marshals of the Soviet UnionEdit

Note: All Marshals of the Soviet Union, with the exception of non-military Marshals, had at least started their military careers in the Army. The service branches listed are the services they served in during their respective tenures as Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Name
and lifespan
Portrait Date promoted Positions[a] Awards Service branch
or
Background
Appointed by
Kliment Voroshilov
(1881–1969)
  20 November 1935[1]
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Hero of Socialist Labour
  Order of Lenin (8)
  Order of the Red Banner (6)

Political
Stalin
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
(1893–1937)
  20 November 1935
  • Technology and Armament Chief, Red Army/People's Deputy Commissar for War (1931–1936)
  • First Deputy People's Commissar for Defence/Inspector of Military Training (1936–1937)
  Order of Lenin
  Order of the Red Banner

Red Army
Alexander Yegorov
(1883–1939)
  20 November 1935
  Order of the Red Banner (4)
Red Army
Semyon Budyonny
(1883–1973)
  20 November 1935
  • Inspector of Cavalry, Red Army (1923–1937)
  • Commander, Moscow Military District (1937–1939)
  • Deputy People's Commissar for Defence (1940–1941)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Southwestern Direction (1941)
  • Commander, Reserve Front (1941)
  • Commander-in-Chief, North Caucasus Direction (1942)
  • Commander, North Caucasus Front (1942)
  • Inspector of Cavalry, Red Army (1943–1945)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (3)
  Order of Lenin (8)
  Order of the Red Banner (6)

Red Army
Vasily Blyukher
(1889–1938)
  20 November 1935
  • Commander-in-Chief, Special Red Banner Far Eastern Army (1935–1938)
  Order of Lenin (2)
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Red Army
Semyon Timoshenko
(1895–1970)
  7 May 1940
  • People's Commissar for Defence (1940–1941)
  • People's Commissar for Defence/Chairman, Stavka of the Soviet Armed Forces (1941)
  • Commander, Western Front (1941)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Southwestern Direction (1941)
  • Commander, Stalingrad Front (1942)
  • Commander, Southwestern Front (1942)
  • Commander, Northwestern Front (1942–1943)
  • Chairman, Stavka of the Supreme Main Command (1943–1945)
  • Commander, Belorussian Military District (1946)
  • Commander, South Ural Military District (1946–1949)
  • Commander, Belorussian Military District (1949–1960)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1960–1961)
  • Chairman, State Committee for War Veterans (1961–1970)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (5)

Red Army
Grigory Kulik
(1890–1950)
  7 May 1940
  • Chief, Main Artillery Directorate, Red Army (1933–1941)
  • Deputy People's Commissar for Defence (1939–1940)
  • Commander, 54th Army (1941)
  • Demoted to lieutenant general (1942–1946)[b]
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Red Army
Boris Shaposhnikov
(1882–1945)
  7 May 1940
  Order of Lenin (3)
  Order of the Red Banner (2)

Red Army
Georgy Zhukov
(1896–1974)
  18 January 1943
  Hero of the Soviet Union (4)
  Order of Victory (2)
  Order of Lenin (6)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
(1895–1977)
  16 February 1943
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Victory (2)
  Order of Lenin (8)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (2)

Red Army
Joseph Stalin
(1878–1953)[c]
  6 March 1943[2]
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Victory (2)
  Order of Lenin (3)
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Political
Ivan Konev
(1897–1973)
  20 February 1944[3]
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (7)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Leonid Govorov
(1897–1955)
  18 June 1944
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Konstantin Rokossovsky
(1896–1968)[d]
  29 June 1944
  • Commander, 1st Belorussian Front (1943–1944)
  • Commander, 2nd Belorussian Front (1944–1945)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Northern Group of Forces (1945–1949)
  • Minister of National Defence, People's Republic of Poland (1949–1952)
  • Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, People's Republic of Poland (1952–1957)
  • Deputy Minister of Defence/Commander, Transcaucasian Military District (1957–1958)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1958–1962)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (7)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (6)

Red Army
Rodion Malinovsky
(1898–1967)
  10 September 1944
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Fyodor Tolbukhin
(1894–1949)
  12 September 1944
  • Commander, 3rd Ukrainian Front (1944–1945)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Southern Group of Forces (1945–1947)
  • Commander, Transcaucasus Military District (1947–1949)
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (2)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Kirill Meretskov
(1897–1968)
  26 October 1944
  • Commander, Karelian Front (1944–1945)
  • Commander, 1st Far Eastern Front (1945)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Soviet Forces in Korea (1945–1947)
  • Commander, Moscow Military District (1947–1949)
  • Commander, Belomorsky Military District (1949–1951)
  • Commander, Northern Military District (1951–1954)
  • Assistant Minister of Defence (1955–1964)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1964–1968)
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Victory
  Order of Lenin (7)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Red Army
Lavrentiy Beria
(1899–1953)
  9 July 1945[4]
  Hero of Socialist Labour
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

NKVD/MGB
Vasily Sokolovsky
(1897–1968)
  3 July 1946
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (8)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Red Army
Nikolai Bulganin
(1895–1975)
  3 November 1947[5]
  Hero of Socialist Labour
  Order of Lenin (2)
  Order of the Red Banner

Political
Ivan Bagramyan
(1897–1982)[e]
  11 March 1955[6]
  • Deputy Minister of Defence (1955–1956)
  • Deputy Minister of Defence/Commandant, Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union (1956–1958)
  • Deputy Minister of Defence (1956–1968)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (7)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Khrushchev
Sergey Biryuzov
(1904–1964)
  11 March 1955
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Strategic Rocket Forces
Andrei Grechko
(1903–1976)
  11 March 1955   Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (6)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Andrei Yeremenko
(1892–1970)
  11 March 1955
  • Commander, North Caucasus Military District (1953–1958)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1958–1970)
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Soviet Army
Kirill Moskalenko
(1902–1985)
  11 March 1955
  • Commander, Moscow Military District (1953–1960)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Missile Forces (1960–1962)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1962–1985)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (7)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (5)

Strategic Rocket Forces
Vasily Chuikov
(1900–1982)
  11 March 1955
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (9)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Soviet Army
Matvei Zakharov
(1898–1972)
  8 May 1959
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Soviet Army
Filipp Golikov
(1900–1980)
  8 May 1961
  • Chief, Main Political Administration of the Soviet Armed Forces (1958–1962)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1962–1980)
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Soviet Army
Nikolay Krylov
(1903–1972)
  28 April 1962
  • Commander, Moscow Military District (1960–1963)
  • Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Missile Forces (1963–1972)
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the October Revolution

Strategic Rocket Forces
Ivan Yakubovsky
(1912–1976)
  12 April 1967
  Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Soviet Army
Brezhnev
Pavel Batitsky
(1910–1984)
  17 April 1968[7]   Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the Red Banner (4)

Air Defence
Pyotr Koshevoy
(1904–1976)
  17 April 1968   Hero of the Soviet Union (2)
  Order of Lenin (5)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Dmitry Ustinov
(1908–1984)
  30 July 1976
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Hero of Socialist Labour (2)
  Order of Lenin (11)

Defence Industry
Leonid Brezhnev
(1906–1982)
  19 December 1976   Hero of the Soviet Union (4)
  Hero of Socialist Labour
  Order of Lenin (8)
  Order of the October Revolution (2)
  Order of the Red Banner (2)

Political
Viktor Kulikov
(1921–2013)
  14 January 1977   Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Nikolai Ogarkov
(1917–1994)
  14 January 1977   Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (2)
  Order of the October Revolution (2)
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Sergey Sokolov
(1911–2012)
  17 February 1978
  • First Deputy Minister of Defence (1966–1984)
  • Commander, Soviet Forces in Afghanistan (1979–1984)
  • Minister of Defence (1984–1987)
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (3)
  Order of the Red Banner (2)

Soviet Army
Sergey Akhromeyev
(1923–1991)
  25 March 1983
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the October Revolution

Soviet Army
Andropov
Semyon Kurkotkin
(1917–1990)
  25 March 1983
  • Deputy Minister of Defence/Chief of the Rear Services of the Soviet Armed Forces (1972–1988)
  • Inspector-General, Ministry of Defence (1988–1990)
  Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Vasily Petrov
(1917–2014)
  25 March 1983   Hero of the Soviet Union
  Order of Lenin (4)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner (3)

Soviet Army
Dmitry Yazov
(1924–2020)
  28 April 1990
  Order of Lenin (2)
  Order of the October Revolution
  Order of the Red Banner

Soviet Army
Gorbachev

TimelineEdit

Dmitri YazovVasily PetrovSemyon KurkotkinSergey AkhromeyevSergey Sokolov (marshal)Nikolai OgarkovViktor KulikovLeonid BrezhnevDmitry UstinovPavel BatitskyPyotr KoshevoyIvan YakubovskyNikolay KrylovFilipp GolikovMatvei ZakharovAndrey YeryomenkoKirill MoskalenkoSergey BiryuzovVasily ChuikovIvan BagramyanAndrei GrechkoNikolai BulganinVasily SokolovskyLavrentiy BeriaKirill MeretskovFyodor TolbukhinRodion MalinovskyKonstantin RokossovskyLeonid GovorovIvan KonevJoseph StalinAleksandr VasilevskyGeorgy ZhukovGrigory KulikBoris ShaposhnikovSemyon TimoshenkoSemyon BudyonnyVasily BlyukherMikhail TukhachevskyAlexander Yegorov (soldier)Kliment Voroshilov

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Bolded indicates top-ranked political position
  2. ^ Retired in 1946, purged in 1950.
  3. ^ Joseph Stalin was Generalissimus of the Soviet Union from 1945.
  4. ^ Konstantin Rokossovsky was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949.
  5. ^ Also known as Hovhannes Baghramian.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY OF KLIMENT YE. VOROSHILOV, STATESMAN AND MILITARY FIGURE, MARSHAL OF THE SOVIET UNION". Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  2. ^ Stephan, Robert (1987). "Smersh: Soviet Military Counter-Intelligence during the Second World War". Journal of Contemporary History. 22 (4): 585–613. doi:10.1177/002200948702200403. JSTOR 260812. S2CID 159160922. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  3. ^ "Ivan Konev - Traces of War". Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  4. ^ Birstein, Vadim (November 2013). SMERSH: Stalin's Secret Weapon. ISBN 9781849546898. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Military Review, Volume 35, Issue 6". 1955. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Village of war chiefs". Collective Treaty Security Organization. 15 January 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Professional Journal of the United States Army". Google Books. 1969.

External linksEdit